Many people will admit that they never appreciate good health until they are sick or injured, and if they do fall ill, their first thought is getting immediate treatment to alleviate their discomfort. For people fortunate enough to have healthcare insurance, their first point of consultation is a primary care provider who can diagnose and treat their condition, and more than likely provide guidance for how to prevent a recurrence unless their health issue is an injury. It is a tragedy that in the richest country on Earth, there are 50-million Americans whose only contact with a healthcare provider is in a hospital or clinic emergency room, and as is often the case, a primary care provider could have prevented a trip to the emergency room and a staggering medical bill that the patient or the taxpayers are saddled with.
During the healthcare reform debates, angry teabaggers and Republicans revolted against the idea that all Americans had a right to affordable healthcare, and despite passing both houses of Congress, President Obama’s signature, and the Supreme Court, presidential candidate Willard Romney pledges to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on his first day in office. The Republican argument is that the ACA is too expensive and a government takeover of healthcare even though several agencies determined that it will save taxpayers billions of dollars, provide the insurance industry with 30 million new policy holders, and give tens-of-millions of Americans access to affordable healthcare insurance.
On Sunday, Romney was asked if the government had a responsibility to provide health care to 50 million Americans who don’t have it, and he replied “we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance,” and proceeded to explain that emergency room visits are healthcare. In 2010, when he was asked if he believes in universal healthcare he said “it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care, for which they have no responsibility.” Romney’s supports the principle argument for the individual mandate in the ACA and it’s no wonder because it is included in the universal healthcare law he signed while governor of Massachusetts. Romney explained how he determined it was prudent to require Massachusetts’ residents to carry healthcare insurance in his memoir.
Willard wrote that Massachusetts residents who didn’t have health insurance were receiving health care because federal law mandated hospitals to treat people who arrived at emergency rooms with acute conditions. His team realized the cost of treating people who didn’t have health insurance was already being paid for, and if they could use that money to help the uninsured buy insurance and obtain treatment before acute conditions developed, insuring everyone in the state might not be as expensive as paying for emergency room visits. Romney claimed it was an epiphany, but it is just good economics with the added benefit of a healthier population, and it is all down to regular checkups and preventative medicine as opposed to waiting until a condition is so advanced a visit to the ER was a last resort.
This incident appears to represent one of Romney’s failings, that despite sound economics, he panders to dispassionate conservatives and selfish teabaggers and reverts to unsound economics that are detrimental to 50 million uninsured Americans. What makes his “healthcare is an emergency room visit” statement all the more obscene is that the uninsured are guaranteed to suffer ill-health because he contends the ACA is too expensive and government takeover of healthcare.
Romney is fine with people waiting until they need to go to the emergency room to get care because they lack a primary care provider, and despite substantial proof that patients seeking to maintain optimal health are those who can afford healthcare insurance, Romney and Republicans still oppose giving every American the opportunity to purchase health insurance because they oppose the President, and over the weekend, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan propagated a myth that President Obama’s health law includes death panels.
At a University of Central Florida town hall in Orlando, after hearing Ryan repeatedly call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a senior citizen asked “will you address the death panels that we’re going to have?” Instead of discouraging the man’s reference to “death panels,” Ryan laughed and said, “The death panels, well! That’s not the word I’d choose, it’s actually called what I refer to as this board of 15 bureaucrats–the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). It sounds fairly innocuous.” It is innocuous because the IPAB’s job is making recommendations to Congress for lowering health care spending if Medicare costs exceed a target growth rate by modifying payments to providers, but it does not “include any recommendation to ration health care, or restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.” However, truth is not Ryan’s purview and with Romney, has done everything to cast aspersion on the President’s signature healthcare law and their reason for opposing it is funding tax cuts for the wealthy.
Romney and Ryan are campaigning on shrinking the government to fund monumental tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, and although they are remiss to give specifics to fund trillions in tax cuts, they have promised to slash spending on programs that provide healthcare for the poor, children, and seniors. Medicaid and Medicare have been singled out for Romney and Ryan’s cuts, and the people who will suffer most are the uninsured whose only option for medical treatment is a visit to the emergency room when their health is in jeopardy. If Romney is victorious in November, then the uninsured person left with no option but going to the emergency room for treatment will find there are no funds to pay for treatment. There will be dreaded death panels, but they will be from steep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare Romney and Ryan require to pay for the wealthy’s tax cuts.
Romney’s assertion that Americans already have universal healthcare because they can visit an emergency room for an acute medical condition is not a flip-flop, it is part of his plan for America’s uninsured. He is not confused about the economic benefits of the ACA, because he has no intention of supporting any program to provide affordable healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans. Romney has made it perfectly clear that he does not care, or worry, about nearly half of America and that includes their health. What he does care about is eliminating his tax liability and if slashing Medicare, Medicaid, and repealing the Affordable Care Act will fund the wealthy’s tax cuts, then 30-50 million uninsured Americans can expect nothing from Romney except “don’t get sick” because even a visit to the emergency room will not be an option.